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Match report: Eagles scrape home over Blues

Highlights: Carlton v West Coast The Blues and Eagles clash in round 17
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Patrick Cripps of the Blues and Elliot Yeo of the Eagles compete for the ball during the 2016 AFL Round 17 match between the Carlton Blues and the West Coast Eagles at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Carlton's Patrick Cripps is tackled by Eagle Elliot Yeo

CARLTON'S late charge has cost West Coast a place in the top four, with the Eagles labouring to an unconvincing seven-point win over a never-say-die Blues outfit at the MCG on Sunday.

Despite what looked pre-game to be a relatively straightforward MCG reconnaissance mission against the 14th-placed Blues, the Eagles were pushed to the final siren after being stopped in their tracks in the last term.

West Coast took a 27-point lead into the last quarter – after leading by a game-high 33 just before three-quarter time – but were totally outworked in the final term as the Blues stormed home, just falling short 12.10 (82) to 11.9 (75).

Carlton kicked five goals to two in the last quarter and dominated from the centre, giving the visitors a major fright at a venue where West Coast is yet to prove it can play anywhere near its best football under coach Adam Simpson.

Hey Joe: Secret Service takes over 'G

The Eagles made hard work of an undermanned Carlton side missing skipper Marc Murphy, Dale Thomas, Andrew Walker and spearhead Levi Casboult, and to the Blues' credit they were organised defensively and caused the occasional headache piercing through West Coast's zone.

The Eagles showed flashes of their best, but they were all too brief as they narrowly held on to improve their away record to 3-4 this season – although questions linger about their form on the road.

Coming into the match, the Eagles averaged 120 points at home and just 80 away, and, despite perfect conditions at the home of football, they struggled to break away from Carlton's shackles.

It would be interesting to know what US Vice-President Joe Biden, whose huge security detail locked down parts of the MCG pre-match, would have thought of the spectacle, which was at times unremarkable.

Highlights were rare for both sides, although the Secret Service personnel shadowing Biden's every move seemingly enjoyed the contest from ground level.

Blues fans would've been encouraged by Jack Silvagni's hard-working effort, while No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering booted his first two AFL goals, despite a corked calf sustained in the opening term, to help inspire the fightback.

The Blues finally break it open and kick a great team goal. #AFLBluesEagles #ohwhatafeeling

— AFL (@AFL) July 17, 2016

"(They had) quite a bit more experience than us out there this week but we showed, I've used this term a bit, but little sprouts of growth with our youngsters," Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said post-match.

"(But) we don't absolve ourselves of the responsibility of trying to win games.

"The third quarter was really costly for us, though. We had some turnovers in open play that we shouldn't have made and full credit to West Coast they hurt (us) on the scoreboard."

With Eagles spearhead Josh Kennedy (two goals) – now the outright Coleman Medal leader with 55 – was well held by Sam Rowe, and with sidekick Jack Darling misfiring (five behinds) it was left to the fleet-footed smalls to do the damage.

Jamie Cripps booted three majors – including one from a clever one-handed gather in the second term – while veteran Mark LeCras (two) continued his resurgence in form.

Andrew Gaff was outstanding for the visitors, racking up 30 disposals, while Matt Priddis (24) was his typically hard-working self at the coalface, Luke Shuey's (24, one goal) pace lit up a mostly dull affair and Jeremy McGovern was impassable down back.

Sam Docherty (32) and Kade Simpson (28) were rock-solid for the Blues in defence, while Cripps racked up 29 touches after managing just five in the first half.

Despite the Eagles being in control at the final change, the Blues sensed the chance to get back into the game.

Carlton (6-10) could have given the Eagles an even bigger fright in the dying minutes, but Cripps pulled a set shot right that would have reduced the margin to eight points with five minutes left, and West Coast held on for its 11th win.

It was the Eagles' fourth win in a row, their first victory in Melbourne this season and first at the MCG after two shellackings from Hawthorn in last year's Grand Final and the round two rematch.

With another trip to face Collingwood in a fortnight's time, Simpson's men have plenty of homework to do.

"The way we won wasn't ideal but we'll take the win. It was a good experience playing here again, the conditions, the size of the ground and we get to come back here in a couple of weeks," Simpson said. 

"I think it's probably more relief when you have games like this.

"I think we can play a bit better."

Jacob Weitering was the major concern after he suffered a corked calf in the first term, but the sore youngster returned to the action and impressed in the second half in attack and will be managed this week.

West Coast: Jeremy McGovern hurt his thumb in the second quarter in a marking contest, although Adam Simpson played down the injury post-match, saying the important defender has been managing the issue for two years. Jack Darling landed heavily from a marking contest but he and Matt Priddis (quad) are expected to be fine to face Melbourne.

The Eagles will have a light week on the track with only a six-day break before they host Melbourne, which hasn't beaten West Coast since 2009. The Blues face a stern test against a Sydney Swans side on the rebound from a tough defeat at the SCG, where Carlton has won just once since 1993.

CARLTON         1.2   3.3   6.5   11.9 (75)
WEST COAST   2.4   5.7  10.8  12.10 (82)

Weitering 2, Gibbs 2, E.Curnow, Silvagni, Buckley, C.Curnow, Wright, Cripps, Kerridge
West Coast: Cripps 3, LeCras 2, Yeo 2, Kennedy 2, Hill, Schofield, Shuey

Docherty, Cripps, Simpson, Gibbs, Kerridge
West Coast: Gaff, Priddis, McGovern, Shuey, Cripps, Masten 

 Weitering (corked right calf)
West Coast: McGovern (left thumb), Priddis (left quad) 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Edwards, Ryan 

Official crowd: 26,389 at the MCG